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Preene, M., and Younger, P.L. (2014) Can you take the heat?

– Geothermal
energy in mining. Mining Technology, 123 (2). pp. 107-118. ISSN 1474-9009

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Title

CAN YOU TAKE THE HEAT? – GEOTHERMAL ENERGY IN MINING

Authors

*M Preene1 and P L. Younger2


1
Principal
Golder Associates (UK) Limited
Golder House, Station Road, Tadcaster,
Leeds, LS24 9JF, UK
(*Corresponding author: mpreene@golder.com)
2
Rankine Chair of Engineering, and Professor of Energy Engineering
School of Engineering,
University of Glasgow
Glasgow, G21 8QQ, UK

Revision 1
Revision 14 March 2014

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CAN YOU TAKE THE HEAT? – GEOTHERMAL ENERGY IN MINING

ABSTRACT
In 2013 there are less than 20 documented examples of operational geothermal systems on mine sites
worldwide. This is surprising, since on remote mine sites, where fuels may have to be shipped in over great
distances, heating and cooling from low-enthalpy geothermal sources may have a significant advantage in
operational cost over conventional energy sources.

A review of factors affecting the feasibility of geothermal systems on mining projects has been undertaken, and
has identified the possible configurations of geothermal systems suitable for the exploration, operational and
closure phases of mine development. The geothermal opportunities associated with abandoned or legacy mines
are also discussed. The potential categories of heat reservoirs associated with mine sites are: natural ground;
backfilled workings; mine waste, dewatering pumping; and flooded workings/pit lakes.

The potentially lower operational costs for heating and cooling must be offset against the capital cost of a
geothermal system. The focus for mine operators should therefore be on identifying at feasibility stage those
projects where conditions are favourable for geothermal systems, where the potential risks are understood,
and where the economics are likely to be beneficial, where geothermal systems can be established while
minimising additional capital costs.

KEYWORDS
Energy, Geothermal, Minewater

INTRODUCTION
The use of geothermal technologies to extract heat energy from the sub-surface environment, to provide
heating and cooling or to generate electricity, is well established outside of the mining industry, yet to date it
has seen relatively little uptake within the sector. As it relies on the same blend of geological and engineering
skills which mining demands, this omission is rather puzzling, and begs the question whether it represents a
considered rejection or merely oversight. In appropriate geological settings, with the correct engineering,
geothermal energy can be an economic source of low carbon energy, able to displace traditional fossil fuel-
based energy sources, either for use within a mine, for supply to living quarters or working areas on mine sites
or for sale to third parties. This paper examines the proposition that the mining industry is ripe for a significant
expansion of geothermal energy use.

Conventionally, geothermal heat energy in soils and rock (and associated geofluids such as groundwater or
brine) is exploited via drilled wells, via buried ‘ground collectors’ (typically looped heat-exchange pipework),
from pumped groundwater or from surface water bodies such as lakes. Unfortunately, while the unit cost per
generated kilowatt hour (kWh) can be significantly less than that of comparable traditional energy sources, a
geothermal system typically requires significant up-front capital cost to construct the necessary geothermal
wells or ground collectors. This capital expenditure is required before a single kWh of energy can be
generated, and is probably one of the factors why geothermal systems have not been implemented in a wider
range of settings and by a wider range or organisations.

However, in the case of the mining industry, much of the work required to establish geothermal infrastructure
is already undertaken for other purposes. The mining industry routinely: constructs major structures that
penetrate the subsurface (open pits, underground roadways); pumps groundwater as part of dewatering
operations; and may leave behind artificial water features (pit lakes or flooded workings). An obvious
opportunity is to use these engineered features associated with mine sites, where the capital and operational
costs are already committed, to exploit heat energy from geothermal sources. Over the last decade, there have

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been considerable theoretical and academic studies of the potential for the exploitation of geothermal energy
via mine infrastructure (see for example: Malolepszy et al 2005; Digges La Touche and Preene 2011; Parker
2011; Wieber et al 2012). However, based on published information, to date only a very small number of
mining-related geothermal systems have been implemented worldwide (Table 1). Additionally, the authors are
aware of several proposed projects to harness geothermal energy from mines (one of the most notable of which
is the scheme to provide energy to the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada; Ghomshei
2007), but many of these are in early stages of development or have become stalled or have even been
abandoned. Undoubtedly, the effects of the Global Financial Crisis may have played a part in restricting the
investment available for such schemes, but it is also possible that technical and environmental factors, as well
as the perceived risks, have influenced the lack of uptake of mining geothermal systems.

On the premise that geothermal systems are not new and are not based on radical technologies, the current
paper is intended to promote technology transfer from outside the mining industry by discussing the
technologies used to exploit geothermal heat energy, and by identifying the conditions where the exploitation
of geothermal energy may be feasible and economic. The engineering challenges, key risks and potential
environmental impacts will be highlighted, and the possible future role of geothermal energy in mining will be
discussed, As it is rare that mines access water hot enough (> 85oC) to generate electricity using binary power
plants, the focus of this paper is on lower-enthalpy systems which can be exploited (with or without the aid of
heat pumps) for direct heating / cooling purposes.

DRIVERS FOR EXPLOITING MINING GEOTHERMAL ENERGY


There are three principle drivers for exploitation of geothermal energy:
1. Financial savings. All mining operations use heat energy, to a lesser or greater degree influenced by the
local climate and the type of mining and processing operation. The energy costs associated with heating
maybe substantial. Geothermal energy can potentially provide heat at lower unit costs than conventional
fuels, thereby reducing operating costs.
2. Environmental benefits and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Geothermal systems are classified as
low carbon energy sources. Typically heat from geothermal systems will be used to displace heat derived
from conventional fossil fuel sources; use of geothermal energy will reduce carbon emissions, which is in
line with typical CSR objectives.
3. Gaining benefit from closed and legacy mines. Flooded mine workings and open pits can be significant
reservoirs of geothermal heat. If these heat reservoirs are exploited this can generate new revenue streams
for mining companies, and potentially support the sustainable development of communities associated
with closed mines.

It is important to realise that the geothermal potential and associated risks and challenges will be unique to
each project – geothermal energy is not a panacea for all mining projects, viability will depend on diverse
factors including geology and existing infrastructure. Where geothermal energy is being considered a
feasibility study is likely to be required, addressing the factors outlined later in this paper.

PRINCIPLES OF LOW-ENTHALPY GEOTHERMAL SYSTEMS


In concept, low-enthalpy geothermal systems are very simple. Three interconnected elements are required to
allow geothermal energy to be exploited (Figure 1):
a) A heat source or heat reservoir (a stratum of soil or rock, a geologic aquifer or a body of surface water
such as a pit lake). To be exploitable, a heat reservoir typically needs to contain permeable pathways or
connections (e.g. natural fissures and fractures or artificial features such as mine workings) and contain a
mobile geofluid (most commonly groundwater, but also brine or – in high enthalpy systems – steam);
b) A heat transfer or energy conversion system (heat exchangers, heat pumps or – in high enthalpy
systems – electrical generation equipment); and
c) An energy load (i.e. a demand for the energy produced by the system).

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There are two principal types of geothermal systems – open loop and closed loop – differentiated by the type
of infrastructure (termed the “ground collector”) used to extract heat from the ground and pass it to the heat
transfer/energy conversion system.
• Open loop systems (Figure 1a) extract groundwater from the heat reservoir, via ground collectors
which typically take the form of wells or intakes. The water is then passed through the heat transfer system
before being disposed of (at different temperature to when it was extracted) either to waste or by re-
injection into the source reservoir. If the water is re-injected it can allow an open loop system to operate as
a zero net extraction system.
• Closed loop systems (Figure 1b) differ from open loop systems in that they do not extract groundwater
from the heat reservoir. Instead, the ground collector takes the form of a loop of pipework in intimate
contact with the heat reservoir through which a heat transfer fluid is circulated. As the heat transfer fluid
travels through the ground collector it gains or loses energy from the reservoir. This heat energy is then
passed to the heat transfer system at the surface.

Figure 1 shows a typical configuration whereby the groundwater from the heat reservoir is passed through a
heat transfer system (typically a conventional heat exchanger) and heat energy is then circulated to the various
heat demands via a secondary loop. This approach is adopted because the groundwater pumped from the
reservoir may have a complex chemical composition, resulting in aggressive corrosion conditions, risk of
chemical precipitation, or release of hazardous mine gases. The use of a secondary loop reduces the amount of
equipment exposed to the aggressive groundwater and can allow the pumped groundwater to remain
pressurised, thereby reducing the risk of degassing, chemical precipitation and clogging. The secondary loop
can therefore circulate ‘clean water’ and equipment connected to the loop can be designed for less onerous
chemical conditions, saving capital costs.

Geothermal systems can also be categorised is based the temperature of the source reservoir. Higher
temperature reservoirs (greater than about 85°C) have the potential to be exploited to produce electricity, while
lower temperature reservoirs can only be exploited for heating (and indeed for cooling). The vast majority of
mines will be in geological conditions where the reservoir temperatures are not high enough to allow electricity
to be generated. However, occasionally hot fluids are generated in dewatering systems which may allow
electricity generation; this is especially likely to occur in tectonically active regions. Williamson and Vogwill
(2001) report that the Lihir Gold Mine in New Guinea had to manage water at temperatures of 90 to 100°C and
Popielak et al (2013) describe groundwater at 70 to 160°C in the Cerro Blanco underground mine in
Guatemala.

A more complete background to geothermal systems used to generate electricity can be found in Dickson and
Fanelli (2003). Geothermal systems used to provide heating and cooling are described in Banks (2012).

KEY POTENTIAL RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH LOW-ENTHALPY GEOTHERMAL SYSTEMS


There are a range of potential risks associated with low enthalpy geothermal systems, the most significant of
which are discussed below. The investigation of the relevant issues is a key part of the feasibility assessment
described later in this paper.
i. Heat resource risk: Is the heat resource in the reservoir adequate in terms of the quantity of usable heat
(in MJ) and the quality of the heat (e.g. peak temperatures). This risk can be quantified by relatively
conventional programmes of hydrogeological drilling and modelling.
ii. Heat accessibility risk: Is there adequate hydraulic connectivity in the heat reservoir and do structures
which can function as ground collectors already exist or can they easily be constructed with a high
certainty of thermal output? By this measure, sites which already include dewatering pumping or
flooded pits or workings have readily accessible and quantifiable heat and would be considered low
risk.

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iii. Environmental and regulatory risk: Is there a significant risk that a geothermal system may cause
unacceptable environmental impacts or may be constrained by regulatory issues? Based on experience
in other industries, this risk can typically be quantified and mitigated by good design and planning.
iv. Operational and heat continuity risk: Is there a significant risk that operational problems may reduce
the system efficiency during its life, or even lead to interruption in heat supply? Examples of
operational problems include system corrosion, encrustation or clogging due to aggressive minewater
chemistry, or the risk of excessive reductions in heat reservoir temperature as a result of high heat
extraction rates. This risk can be quantified by hydrogeological and geochemical modelling.

When assessing how these risks may be perceived within the mining industry, it is important to realise that the
broadly same risks apply to geothermal applications in other industries. Over the last decade there has been a
significant increase in the uptake of low-enthalpy geothermal systems in commercial buildings (Wang et al.,
2007). Property developers are little different to the mining industry in their desire to manage risk and reliably
obtain adequate return on capital invested. The track record suggests these risks are not perceived as barriers,
but instead act as a road map for studies and investigations for potential applications.

FACTORS AFFECTING THE FEASIBILITY OF LOW-ENTHALPY GEOTHERMAL SYSTEMS


The stages in assessing the economic feasibility of a potential geothermal system on a mining project are little
different to assessing the feasibility of extracting a mineral product, except the raw product to be extracted is
heat, which is then processed (or converted) into usable forms of heating and cooling. The key steps are
outlined below.

Identify and Determine the Size and Key Parameters of the Heat Reservoir
The feasibility of a mine-related geothermal system is dominated by the properties of the heat reservoir. If the
reservoir does not have suitable properties then even the highest standards of engineering will be of little
benefit to producing viable energy. Three key parameters must be considered: the presence of mobile
groundwater; the total quantity of accessible heat; and peak temperatures available at the point of heat transfer
or energy conversion. Pumping trials and numerical modelling can play an important role in assessing the
values of these parameters on a specific site.

Presence of Mobile Groundwater


Although geothermal heat reservoirs can exist without mobile groundwater – the so called “hot dry rock”
reservoirs (Brown et al 2012) – in the vast majority of cases for a geothermal heat reservoir to be commercially
exploitable, extraction or re-injection of fluids must induce significant groundwater flow. Outside of the
mining industry, groundwater flow delivering heat to or from ground collectors is primarily through the natural
permeable features (fractures, fissures, interconnected pore spaces) within the stratum, which are connected to
the surface via ground collectors. The advantage of mining applications of geothermal systems is that workings
(both underground and open pit) below groundwater level will provide enhanced permeability within the
reservoir and may be suitable for use as ground collectors. Hydrogeological studies, often including numerical
modelling and pumping tests, are a key element of any assessment of the potential for geothermal exploitation
at a mine site.

Peak Temperatures Available at the Point of Heat Transfer or Energy Conversion


The maximum temperature of the fluids that can be extracted from open loop systems or circulated in closed
loop systems will determine the possible means of exploitation for energy supply:
• Less than approximately 35°C: Suitable for exploitation for heating and/or cooling by either heat
pumps or direct use by heat exchangers; and
• 35 to approximately 85°C: Suitable for exploitation for heating by direct use (heat exchangers).
The key temperature is the maximum available at the point of heat transfer (e.g. heat pump or heat exchanger),
which may be lower than the observed static temperature in the geothermal reservoir, especially if groundwater

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is circulating rapidly in the reservoir and has little residence time to absorb heat before it is pumped to the
surface.

Total Quantity of Recoverable Energy


The total quantity of heat in Joules (J) potentially available from a geothermal reservoir is typically assessed by
determining the effective volume of the heat reservoir, and calculating the heat that can be exchanged as a
result of raising or lowering the reservoir temperature by ∆T. For systems that involve flowing fluid (such as
pumped dewatering systems) the calculation is based on raising or lowering the temperature of the flowing
fluid by ∆T. Methods of calculation are given in Appendix 1.

However, the total quantity of heat available does not tell the full story. It is important to determine the
possible sustainable rates of heat extraction in Watts (W), defined as Joules per second. Geothermal reservoirs
exist at their current temperatures in response to existing heat inputs and outputs which include solar flux on
the ground surface, geothermal flux from depth and heat movements associated with natural groundwater
flows. In most cases the artificial extraction of heat at any commercially viable rate will affect the heat balance
in the reservoir and over time, temperatures will fall. The greater the rate of extraction the quicker reservoir
temperatures will fall.

Falls in reservoir temperatures are important for two principal reasons. Firstly, there will be a ‘cut-off
temperature’ below which the selected heat transfer technology will not operate efficiently. High rates of heat
extraction may result in the cut-off temperature being reached in early years of operation, curtailing the life of
the usable heat resource. Secondly, any significant temperature reductions in the reservoir temperature increase
the risk of adverse environmental effects.

Understand the Market for, and Value of, the Energy which can Potentially be Extracted
Without a viable end use there can be no demand and any extracted energy has no value. An essential step in
feasibility studies is the identification of end uses, which may be on the mine site or off site. It is important to
realise modern technology, including heat pumps, can allow heat energy extracted from mines to be used for
both heating and for cooling. Therefore, geothermal systems are relevant to mine sites in cold, temperate and
hot climates.

Determine the Necessary Engineering Infrastructure


Once a geothermal heat reservoir has been identified and matched to a potential market for heating/cooling, it
is necessary to determine the infrastructure required to extract the proposed rates of heat. Infrastructure may
include:
• Ground collectors. In some cases (for example flooded mine shafts, or existing dewatering systems)
heat energy can be exploited from mine sites without the need for the construction of ground collectors.
However, some schemes will require the construction of new ground collectors in the form of wells or
closed loop circulation systems. The selection and sizing of ground collectors is fundamental to the design
of geothermal systems.
• Pumping infrastructure. Almost without exception, pumping of fluids is an essential part of the
operation of geothermal systems. This can be either extraction of groundwater from wells and shafts or
circulation of heat transfer fluid through closed loop ground collectors. Optimisation of pumping systems is
important to reduce operating costs and minimise parasitic loads which increase operating costs and reduce
net energy output.
• Water disposal infrastructure. Open loop systems produce a waste stream of groundwater that is either
disposed of to surface water or by re-injection and recirculation into the geothermal reservoir. Where the
flowrate of water to be disposed of is greater than for the conventional mine operation, there will be a
requirement for infrastructure to allow the fluid to be transferred without causing flooding or other
environmental impacts.

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This stage of project development may require field trials to help support the sizing and location of the
required infrastructure.

Identify the Potential for Significant Environmental Impacts


Just as the development of a new mineral extraction must consider the potential for environmental impacts
(both positive and negative), so the development of a geothermal scheme must also consider environmental
impacts. It also important to recognise that there may be positive environmental effects in terms of facilitating,
for example, new employment opportunities, improving local communities by improving availability of
heating/cooling, and reduction in carbon emissions.

Assess the Overall Feasibility of a Geothermal System


The above aspects of a potential geothermal scheme need to be combined to allow the feasibility and economic
viability to be assessed. The design of the ground collectors and pumping infrastructure will have a major
influence on the CAPEX and OPEX. As described elsewhere in this paper, each application of geothermal
energy on mining projects will effectively be unique. It is therefore difficult to generalise on likely CAPEX
and OPEX costs. Outside of the mining industry, data on low enthalpy geothermal systems indicates CAPEX
in the range US$2,000 to US$3,300 per kW installed capacity (excluding end user heat distribution systems)
and OPEX in the range US$0.08 to US$0.11 per kWh of heat delivered (2013 costs). As a starting point these
could be used to provide order of magnitude cost estimates at early feasibility stage.

The anticipated energy yield and market value will allow the project cashflow to be estimated. Of course
financial assessment is only one criterion to determine whether a scheme should be developed. Geothermal
schemes have the potential to reduce the consumption of conventional energy sources, and hence reduce
carbon emissions. Therefore, there may also be regulatory drivers or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
requirements which may temper a purely financial assessment.

POSSIBLE CONFIGURATIONS OF LOW-ENTHALPY GEOTHERMAL SYSTEMS IN THE


MINING INDUSTRY

Potential Heat Reservoirs


Several configurations of geothermal systems are possible on mine sites, tapping into different types of heat
reservoir. In practice, certain heat reservoirs are more likely to be exploitable at given phases of a mining
project – exploration, operation and closure – and may have different levels of perceived risk associated with
them. Based on a review of the current mining geothermal applications, there is also significant potential to
harness geothermal energy from ‘legacy’ mines – older abandoned mines or mines where closure was not
managed in line with modern aspirations. Potential applications are summarised in Table 2.

It is possible to install open loop or closed loop ground collectors in natural ground as shown on Figure 1. Such
systems are little different to those applied widely outside the mining industry. Natural ground may have
particular potential to provide heating and cooling to exploration camps, by making use of the exploration rigs
to drill closed loop ground collectors. Conventional ground collectors can also be installed to extract heat from
mine waste dumps, including the heat generated by geochemical reactions therein (Banks et al. 2004).

Where dewatering pumping is carried out for underground or open pit mines (Figure 2), either during operation
or as part of a managed closure regime, it is a fairly straightforward modification to pass the water through a
heat transfer system configured to form an open loop geothermal system.

The review of existing mining geothermal systems summarised in Table 1 indicates that by far the most
common application to date is the extraction of heat from flooded underground mine workings. Where there is
a net abstraction of water, for example where pumping is used to control rebound of regional groundwater

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levels following closure, the water can be pumped out, passed through a heat transfer system and then disposed
of to the surface water environment (Figure 3a). Where there is no requirement for net pumping of water, and
an interconnected set of mine workings exists, it is possible to recirculate water through the workings,
effectively using the mine workings as a huge ground collector (Figure 3b). Figure 3 shows the simplest
arrangement for pumping from flooded underground mines, where pumps are installed directly in existing
shafts; older shafts may be unstable and it may be necessary to install a perforated ‘well liner’ within the shaft
to provide a clear and protected vertical void into which the pump can be installed. If the shafts are
inaccessible, have collapsed or have been backfilled, the experience of the operational geothermal system at
Heerlen in The Netherlands shows that it is possible to successfully drill boreholes into flooded roadways to
extract/reinject water (Roijen 2011).

Pit lakes formed post-closure in open pit mines can also form a large heat reservoir, which can be exploited by
either open loop or closed loop systems (Figure 4).

Potential Environmental Impacts from Mining Geothermal Systems


Geothermal systems can cause a range of environmental impacts, as shown in Table 3. In most cases the
potential negative impacts can be mitigated by appropriate design. Further background on environmental
impacts is given by Younger (2006).

Potential Energy Demands


During the exploration and operation phases, the most obvious use for heat energy is on the mine site itself.
Most mine sites will contain site offices, accommodation buildings, equipment garages and workshops which
may require heating or cooling. On-site heat demand will be near to the source (and so will not require
transmission over great distances), and will typically be under the control of the operator. As a result the
practicalities and commercial relationships will be straightforward.

In cold climates, in addition to mine camps, applications can include direct heating and ventilation air heating
for portals, head houses, and other areas and systems prone to icing. Conversely, cooling may be needed for
mine camps in many parts of the world or to chill ventilation air through deep hard rock mines to control
working temperatures. Based on experience in other industries, and the likely energy scale of energy demand
on mine sites, geothermal systems on mine sites are unlikely to be deployed to provide 100% of the heat
energy to a given site. The most effective deployment is when geothermal systems are configured to supply
part of the baseload heat demand of the site, with supplementary conventional systems operated to meet peak
demands.

Allocating a potential value to on-site use of heat is straightforward, as the heat simply displaces the running
cost of existing gas/electric/oil heaters or chillers in these applications. Based on experience with geothermal
systems outside of the mining industry, heat energy from geothermal sources can have significantly lower unit
costs compared to traditional fossil fuel sources.

The potential for off-site heat demand will vary significantly from site to site. Importantly, off-site demand will
potentially continue to exist after the end of mine operations and following closure. The location of the
potential heat demand has a significant influence on the feasibility of off-site use because it is difficult to
transfer low grade heat energy (typically in the form of warm water) over long distances unless it is transmitted
by well-engineered district heating systems. These allow a relatively small number of heat sources to feed into
a heat network (typically comprising buried insulated pipes used to circulate warm water). It is relatively
unusual for active mine sites to be located in densely populated areas, however, there are often significant
communities nearby and there may be opportunities to provide heat to properties via district heating systems.
Other potential heat uses are agricultural such as for glasshouse heating, produce drying, fish farm heating and
other large scale uses of low temperature heat. Understanding the value of heat that can be provided to off-site

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users is more complicated as it will largely be dependent on the market value of heat in the locality, which may
be variable with location and with the temperature of the supplied heat and can be difficult to accurately
determine.

Commercial Aspects
Where mine operators use heat from ground energy systems to meet on-site demand, the commercial situation
is straightforward as the heat energy from the ground energy system will replace heat from conventional
sources used by the mine operator. However, where the operator intends to harness heat energy and export it to
supply off-site demand the commercial situation may be more complex. While the sale of energy would
potentially provide a new income stream, the downside is that there would be a need for commercial
arrangements with those buying the energy, and systems for metering and billing are likely to be necessary.
Where closed or legacy mines are exploited for heat energy these arrangements would have to continue after
mining operations have ceased. In practice, it may be appropriate for the mine operator to become part of, or
develop a relationship with, an ‘energy supply company’ (EsCo) to manage the sale and distribution of energy.

CONCLUSION
In 2013 there are less than 20 documented examples of operational mining geothermal systems worldwide.
This is surprising, since the wide and increasing use of geothermal systems outside of the mining industry has
proven that geothermal systems are reliable and can compete with, and often undercut, the costs of
conventional fuels. On remote mine sites, where fuels may have to be shipped in over great distances,
geothermal energy may have a significant advantage in operational cost. The potentially lower operational cost
needs to be offset against the capital cost of setting up a geothermal system. The focus for mine operators
should therefore be on identifying at feasibility stage those projects where conditions are favourable for
geothermal systems, where the potential risks are understood, and where the economics are likely to be
beneficial.

Almost all of the case histories listed in Table 1 are of the flooded underground workings type, at the closure
or legacy stage of mine development. By definition these systems must be supplying off-site energy demands,
beyond the mine itself. This highlights that geothermal systems offer both a potential new revenue stream for
mine operators and a chance to contribute to Corporate Social Responsibility targets by supplying nearby
communities with low carbon energy.

It is clear that there is a huge potential to use geothermal technology to exploit the heat energy in mines at all
stages from exploration through to closure and beyond, by providing low carbon heat energy to displace some
use of fossil fuels. The challenge for mine operators (and those responsible for legacy mines) is to identify,
investigate and prioritise those mines sites where geothermal systems can be most effectively developed.

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Wang, F, Maidment, G G, Ford, A, Barker, N, and Missenden, J F (2007). Ground source heating and cooling
in the UK. Proceedings of the Institute of Refrigeration 2006–7, 6.1–6.16.

Wieber, G. H. E., and Pohl, S. 2008. Mine water: a source of geothermal energy – examples from the Rheinish
Massif. Proceedings of the 10th International Mine Water Association Congress – Mine Water and the
Environment, Karlsbad, Czech Republic, 113–116.

Wieber, G. H. E., Deckert, H., Enzmann, F. and Kersten, M. 2012. Heat storage potential of a flooded mine in
the Siegerland-Wied district, Germany. Proceedings of the International Mine Water Association Symposium
– Mine Water and the Environment, Perth, Australia, 459–463.

Williamson, S. and Vogwill, R. I. J. 2001. Dewatering in the hot groundwater conditions at Lihir Gold.
Proceedings of the International Mine Water Association Symposium, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Younger, P. L. 2006. Potential pitfalls for water resources of unregulated development of ground-source heat
resources. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental
Management. Sept 13th - 15th 2006, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. [unpaginated CD publication].

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Table 1 – Documented examples of low-enthalpy geothermal systems used to exploit energy from mines
Approximate Location Description Reference
date of s
implementatio
n
Early 1980s USA – Henderson Minewater at 29°C is used for direct heating of mine Jenson
molybdenum mine, ventilation air to prevent icing of shafts and 1983
Empire, Colorado, equipment and to control mine working
USA temperatures. Water is used at a rate of 72 l/s
1984 Germany – Heinrich 350 kW capacity, used to heat nursing home Wieber
coal mine, Heisingen, and Pohl
Essen 2008
Late 1980s Canada – Springhill, The source is flooded underground coal mine Jessop
Nova Scotia workings. Minewater at 18°C supplied to heat pumps 1995;
used to heat and cool several buildings including Jessop et
manufacturing facilities and a restaurant. Reported al 1995
data from 1989–1990 show peak daily averaged
heating rate of 111 kW and peak daily averaged
cooling rate of 159 kW
Approximately Germany – abandoned Used to heat a high school Wieber
1994 tin mine, and Pohl
Ehrenfriedersdorf, 2008
Sachsen
1995 USA – Park Hills, Production bore 120 m deep penetrating to a flooded Geothermal
Missouri lead mine. Water pumped at 14°C, flow 5 l/s, Heat Pump
supplying nine heat pumps of individual capacity Consortium
between 5 and 18 kW each. Used to heat and cool a Inc. 1997
750 m2 Municipal Building. Water is returned to the
mine via a second borehole
Approximately Germany – abandoned 82 kW capacity, used to heat a museum building for Wieber
1997 tin mine, mine visitors and Pohl
Ehrenfriedersdorf, 2008
Sachsen
1998 Norway – Folldal Underground cavern in disused mine is heated by a Banks et
Mine, Hedmark closed loop ground collector in a 600 m deep flooded al 2004
County shaft. 18 kW of heat effect is produced by a heat pump
1999 UK – Shettleston, 100 m deep borehole drilled into flooded Banks et al
Scotland underground coal mine workings. Minewater at 12°C 2009
supplied to heat pumps of rated capacity 65 kW,
producing hot water at 55°C. Used for space heating
and pre-heating of domestic hot water for 16
residential properties (1,600 m2 total) residential
properties. Minewater re-injected via a shallower
borehole (50–60 m deep)

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Approximate Location Description Reference
date of s
implementatio
n
2000 UK – Lumphinans, 172 m deep borehole drilled into flooded Banks et al
Scotland underground coal mine workings. Minewater at 15°C 2009
supplied to heat pumps of rated capacity 65 kW,
producing hot water at 55°C. Used for space heating
and pre-heating of domestic hot water for 16
residential properties (1,600 m2 total) residential
properties. Minewater re-injected via a shallower
borehole (50–60 m deep)
2000 Germany – Used to heat a school of design Wieber
Zollverein coal mine, and Pohl
Katernberg, Essen 2008
2005 Norway – Kongsberg Closed loop system installed in a mine shaft 250 m Banks et
Mine deep al 2004
2006 Canada – Goyer Open loop system in a flooded open pit, feeding heat Raymond
Quarry, Saint-Bruno- pump units, with individual capacity ranging from et al 2008
De-Montarville, 3.6 to 5.3 kW, installed in each of 36 apartments, for
Quebec a total heated area of 6,039 m2
2007 Germany – Shaft Minewater at 12°C is extracted at a rate of up to 33 Matthes
302, Marienberg l/s from a 144 m deep shaft in a disused uranium and
Mine, Sachsen mine. Water is passed through plate heat exchangesrs Schreyer
located on a platform at 105 m depth. The system has 2007
a heating capacity of 690 kW and is used to heat a
swimming pool
2008 UK – Mount Closed loop system suspended in a former mine shaft Cashmore
Wellington Mine, of an abandoned tin mine, heating the factory and 2011
Cornwall offices of Kensa Engineering. 20 kW Capacity.
Approximately Russia – Three wells, up to 400 m deep supplying heat pumps. Roijen
2009 Novoshaktinsk 2011
Approximately The Netherlands – The source is an flooded underground coal mine. Roijen
2009 Heerlen Deep minewater (28°C) is pumped for heating use 2011
and shallow minewater (18°C) for cooling use. Water
is returned to mineworkings after use. Mine water is
supplied to a district heating energy station which
contains heat pumps of total rated capacity
approiximately 700 kW. District heating system is
used to supply office buildings and social housing
apartments. Heat pumps are augmented by
condensing gas boilers when needed.
Approximately Spain – Hunosa Pumping system installed in shaft at mine closure Roijen
2010 stage and used to cool university buildings 2011;
Loredo et

Page 13
Approximate Location Description Reference
date of s
implementatio
n
al 2011
2011 UK – Dawdon, Open loop system tapping into existing pumped flow Coal
County Durham from disused coal mine, used as demonstration Authority
system to heat buildings at existing Coal Authority 2011
pumping station. 12 kW capacity.

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Table 2 – Potential Applications of geothermal systems on mining projects
Heat reservoir
Natural ground Backfilled Mine waste Dewatering Flooded
workings pumping workings/pit
lakes
Phase
Exploration X
Operation X X X X
Closure X X X* X
Legacy X* X
Notes: * Where pumping is required as part of closure or environmental management measures

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Table 3 – Possible environmental impacts from geothermal systems on mine projects
Potential Environmental Impact Key issues
Negative impacts
Lowering of groundwater levels Long term abstraction from open loop systems can
lower regional groundwater levels and impact on
community wells and groundwater dependent
ecological features. Ground settlement due to
effective stress increases may also be a concern.
Thermal impacts on surface water Disposal to surface water bodies of warmer/cooler
water from open loop systems can affect aquatic
ecology in the receiving water body, because oxygen
content of water is negatively correlated with
temperature. Closed loop systems in pit lakes can
have similar effects.
Thermal impacts on groundwater Disposal to groundwater of warmer/cooler water from
open loop systems (where water is re-injected to
aquifers or is recirculated in flooded working) can
cause long term changes in groundwater temperature.
This may cause geochemical changes which can
affect water quality in the aquifer and potentially
impact on any other (non-mining) geothermal systems
in the area.
Chemical impacts on surface water from disposal of Disposal of water pumped from mines can cause
pumped water pollution problems in the receiving water body due to
precipitation of dissolved chemicals or release of
dissolved gases.
Collapse of existing underground mine workings Pumping from flooded mine workings for geothermal
purposes will potentially change the water pressures
and direction and velocity of water flow within the
workings. This could lead to scour and or instability
of the workings. If boreholes are drilled into workings
for the purposes of water extraction/injection this can
also have a destabilising effect.
Positive impacts
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from mine Geothermal energy has lower greenhouse gas
site emissions than the fossil fuels it will displace
Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from off site Geothermal energy has lower greenhouse gas
users supplied from geothermal system emissions than the fossil fuels it will displace
Benefits to local communities and businesses due to In many remote areas and developing countries access
increased availability of reliable energy to reliable energy sources is limited, and this can act
as a constraint on local communities and industries

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Appendix 1: Geothermal calculations: Heat energy potential of pumped or flowing water

Where there is a flow of water (such as from a dewatering system) heat can be exchanged with the water to
provide heating or cooling. If heating is to be provided, heat must be extracted from the flowing water, and the
temperature of the water will be reduced by ∆T. Conversely, if cooling is to be provided, heat must be added to
the flowing water, and the temperature of the water will be increased by ∆T.

Where the geothermal system operates in direct heating or cooling, for example using heat exchangers without
the use of heat pumps, the heat energy H (in kW) which can be extracted from a stream of flowing water is:

H = Q.ρ w .S w .∆T (1)

where Q is the total groundwater flowrate from the system (m3/s), ρw is the density of water (1000 kg/m3), Sw is
the heat capacity of water (4.2 kJ/kg/K). Equation (1) shows that using a ∆T of 5K, every 100 kW of heating or
cooling requires around 5 litres/s (0.005 m3/s) of groundwater flow, so 1 MW of heating or cooling would
require a peak water flow of around 50 litres/sec (0.05 m3/s).

Where a heat pump is used, the energy used to drive the heat pump, and the efficiency of operation the heat
pump must be taken into account. The efficiency of a heat pump is normally referred to as its coefficient of
performance (COP), which is normally expressed as the ratio of the heat energy delivered to the electrical
energy used to drive the heat pumps. The COP delivered by a given heat pump will depend on the relative
input and output temperatures, but in normal operation COPs in the range 3 to 6 are typical.

Where a heat pump is used to provide heating, the heat associated with the motor driving the heat pump will
contribute to the heat output from the system, so:

( [ COP])
H = (Q.ρ w .S w .∆T ) / 1 − 1 (2)

Where a heat pump is used to provide cooling, the heat associated with the motor driving the heat pump will
act to reduce the available cooling output from the system, so:

( [ COP])
H = (Q.ρ w .S w .∆T ) / 1 + 1 (3)

Note on sustainable rates of heat extraction of an underground reservoir

The available quantity of heat from a reservoir is the total heat resource. A key design issue is the rate at which
heat is extracted from (for heating applications) or added to (for cooling systems) the reservoir by the
geothermal system. The initial temperature of an underground heat reservoir is the result of the natural heat
inputs and outputs to the reservoir, from a range of sources including solar energy falling on the ground
surface, geothermal flux from depth and associated with groundwater flow moving between aquifers and
between strata. If a geothermal system adds or removes heat at a rate significantly greater than the natural
replenishment then, over time, the temperature the of heat reservoir will change significantly – falling for

Page 17
heating dominated applications and rising for cooling dominated applications. In some circumstances, these
changes in reservoir temperature may not cause significant problems. However, any significant changes in
reservoir temperature creates the potential for adverse environmental impacts and, in the long term, may cause
the reservoir temperature to cross a cut-off temperature beyond which the chosen geothermal technology will
not function efficiently.

Notation
COP – Coefficient of performance of heat pump / Dimensionless
H – Potential heat output from geothermal system / kW
Q – Groundwater flowrate from open loop system / m3/s
Sw – Specific heat capacity of water / kJ/kg/K
∆T – Differential temperature / K
ρw – Density of water / kg/m3

Page 18
LIST OF FIGURES (Submitted as separate files)

Figure 1 – Conceptual Sections through geothermal systems


a) Open loop
b) Closed loop

Figure 2 Potential Geothermal Systems in Dewatered Mines


a) Underground mines
b) Open pit mines

Figure 3 Potential Geothermal Systems in Flooded underground mines


a) Pumping to waste
b) Pumping and reinjection

Figure 4 Potential Geothermal Systems in Pit lakes


a) Open loop
b) Closed loop

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